Friday, February 22, 2013

Planes, Trains and a Relentless River

I took 2 airplane trips during my childhood, both to California.  I didn't step foot on an airplane until I was in 7th grade and then again before 9th grade.  That is all I flew with my family.  I also took two spring break trips with friends, one to Arizona and one to Florida, both were chaperoned.

Then I decided I wanted to attend a little Christian college in Lynchburg, Virginia.  My parents put my 18-year-old self alone on an airplane to visit the school.  They walked me to the gate, you could do that then, but I was alone after that.  There are no direct flights from Minneapolis to Lynchburg so I would have to navigate my way through the Charlotte airport and find my way to a second gate where I would get onto a tiny commuter plane where every seat was a window seat and I would pray the entire bumpy flight that I wouldn't die.

I remember feeling like such a grown up on that trip.  That was a defining adult moment for me.  I still feel most like a grown up when I travel.  Going to visit a school that I thought would give me the freedom I craved.  Proof it would give me that freedom as I experienced so much independence on the trip out and back.  I loved it, I was exhilarated by it.

I still remember the book I was reading on the trip to visit a very conservative Christian college.  "Real Christian's don't Dance."  My need to read a book that rebelled against the Baptist tradition of not dancing as I went to visit a Baptist college that forbid dancing should probably have been a clue that this was not going to be the right school for me.  But desperate for freedom and independence I closed my eyes to those details and ran straight toward the freedom I was desperate for.

Last spring we put our son alone on a plan for Boston.  He has been on many plane trips around the country and around the world, sipped coffee with us while we waited for connecting flights as well as ran through airports hoping to catch our plane.  He is an experienced traveler.  We dropped him off at the door to the airport.  We hugged him at the curb, never even went in, you can't do that anymore.  He didn't have to find a connecting flight to get to Boston but he did have to find the right train and take that into the city and his destination.  His opportunity to experience that freedom and independence he is so desperate for just as I was.  And just as my experience was smooth and successful so was his.

We didn't let him go to that school across the country this year.  We held him back one more year as he pulled against our reigns desperate for freedom and independence.  It was the right thing to do.  I think we both know it but, it was a hard thing to do.  For both of us.  Just as my little Christian school was the wrong place for me, Wheaton is the wrong place for Jake.  Yet I am so glad I had my semester in Virginia and I am so glad Jake has his year in Wheaton.  I learned so much during that semester about myself, who I was at that time and what I wanted.  I was far more prepared to commit my life to both John and God when I came home at Christmas than I was when I left in the fall.  And I know Jake is more ready to begin making his own adult decisions and grow in his own faith as well.

He will make mistakes, he will get lost but, that is part of the journey.  I look back on my 20's, as John and I began a marriage and a family and I see two people who were just rushing forward as fast as we could.  We didn't know where we were going and would sometimes run straight into a wall.  We would stumble back, look around and start running forward in a new direction.  I guess that is what you do after high school.  You rush forward trying to find this elusive thing called freedom and independence.  You try lots of new things in an effort to define yourself and find your path.

It has been more than 20 years since I boarded that plane toward my independence and started rushing headlong into life.  Lately I have found myself feeling a lot like my 20-something self.  Rushing forward trying to find something, get somewhere, anywhere but, not really knowing what I was looking for.  I guess it isn't surprising considering the fact that with John in school full time and me back at work we are sort of re-living our early 20's.  This time we have a house, a 2nd grader and a son in college to add to the fun of the uncertainty and instability of this stage of our life.  It is a brief stage in the grand scheme of things; that is a truth I could not have appreciated in my 20's.  But still I have struggled to want to rush forward in any direction just to find my way to the other side.  Running into walls, staggering back only to rush forward again.  Trying to grasp something not in my reach and solve problems that are not mine to solve.

Until I finally just stopped.  And sat.  And, frankly, napped.  And then I picked up Ann Voskamp's book, "One Thousand Gifts".  A book I have desperately wanted to read for a few years but haven't been able to slow down long enough to do so.  This lent I promised myself I would read it.  I borrowed it from a wonderful friend who brought it to me after I found myself running to fast to go get it from her.

I have been reading Ann's blog long enough to know the story.  A woman who found herself deciding to write down 1000 blessings from God, 1000 things she is thankful for and how it changed her life and her perception of God.  A list of 1000 gifts God has given her.

I sat reading it one afternoon in the quiet of my house and couldn't keep my eyes open so I just let the darkness overtake me.  What I thought would be a 20 minute cat nap lasted almost 2 hours.  When I woke up I picked up the book again and there God spoke to me.  As Ann took the time to actually stop and observe and really look at a bubble in her sink, colorful from the shining sun, she realized her list wasn't just about seeing the blessings and being thankful but really experiencing them.  Not just rushing by but being present.
"Time is a relentless river.  It rages on, a respecter of no one.  And this, this is the only way to slow time:  When I fully enter times current, enter into the current moment with the weight of my attention, I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here. I can slow the torrent by being all here. I only live the full life when I live fully in the moment. And when I'm always looking for the next glimpse of glory, I slow and enter."
How do I stop running headlong into walls, rushing through life going nowhere?  When I enter the moment, and not just any moment but, the moment that I am aware is filled with God's glory.  And when you are looking you discover that is every moment.

Reading further she says,
"Life is so urgent it necessitates living slow.  It is only amateurs--and that I have been and its been ugly--who think slow and urgent are contradictory, opposite poles."
I have been living a life this past year where urgent is contradictory and opposite of slow. I have been running and rushing and pushing.  And, I would agree with Ann, at times it has been ugly.  And exhausting, without reward.
"The fast have spiritually slow hearts"
So I am slowing my pace to quicken my heart.  I am not slowing my pace to do nothing but to live this very urgent life present in God's grace and experience His blessings.

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